12 Must-Read Books of November – Chicago Review of Books


As the holiday season approaches and many families and friends begin to gather, it’s the perfect time to begin planning what books you’re going to take with you on your travels. This November is a cornucopia of literary delights, full of heralded new releases from acclaimed authors and debuts from exciting emerging voices. Whether there are planes, trains, and automobiles in your near future or not, our list of most anticipated releases are sure to take you on an unforgettable ride.

By Louise Kennedy
Riverhead Books

An illicit affair set to the backdrop of Northern Ireland during the Troubles? Sign us up. Louise Kennedy’s Trespasses is a devastating novel filled with love and passion amid a brutal and desperate time. Cushla has fallen for a lawyer who has made his name for himself by defending IRA members, but following a brutal attack in town, their new connection and her loyalties are irrevocably threatened. 

Chi Boy: Native Sons and Chicago Reckonings
By Keenan Norris
Mad Creek Books

Chi Boy exemplifies much of what makes Chicago such a special literary topic. Following in the tradition of some of our greatest cultural critics, Keenan Norris weaves together memoir, history, and literary biography to craft a remarkable portrait of the city. It’s a grand project with a wide scope, but at its heart are two compelling threads: the life of Richard Wright and the story of Norris’s family and their path to calling Chicago home. Chi Boy is a can’t miss read for anyone who loves the city and its complicated place in our collective imagination. 

By Lynn Steger Strong
Mariner Books

If you’re already dreading seeing your family during the holidays, Flight is the book for you. When Henry, Kate, and Martin come together for the first Christmas without their mother, old resentments begin to simmer. Incredibly propulsive and filled with razor-sharp insights, Lynn Steger Strong shows us the power of familial love and care, which can support us through the plentiful failings of modern life. 

The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On
By Franny Choi
Ecco Press

Interest in stories about the end of days is at an all time high, and in her latest collection, poet Franny Choi reminds readers that the apocalypse has already come for marginalized peoples throughout history. Choi calls upon apocalypses of the past, present, and future to imagine a picture of what survival through community could look like. 

Who Is the City For?: Architecture, Equity, and the Public Realm in Chicago
By Blair Kamin
With Photographs By Lee Bey
University of Chicago Press

Chicago is one of the architectural capitals of the world, and in this new collaboration from today’s leading critics in the field, Blair Kamin and Lee Bey lay bare the inequities that are entrenched in our built environment. Stretching beyond the eye-catching skyscrapers of downtown into the rich history of the city’s diverse neighborhoods, Who is the City For? is a necessary and revealing portrait of Chicago with a powerful message on how we can rebuild our public spaces with equity in mind. 

Dr. No
By Percival Everett
Graywolf Press

Hot off the heels of the Booker Prize shortlisted The Trees comes Dr. No, a sleek and sarcastic novel about an expert in the study of nothing and an aspiring villain who plans to break into Fort Knox to steal not gold bars, but a shoebox also containing nothing. Few writers strike at the heart of our modern neuroses and sins as well as Percival Everett, and just like his extensive bibliography, he’s surely succeeded again. 

Traces of Boots on Tongue: And Other Stories
By Rajkamal Chaudhary
Translated from the Hindi by Saudamini Deo
Seagull Books

Traces of Boots on Tongue is a long-overdue collection from one of India’s most significant voices. Rajkamal Chaudhary, a bold experimentalist in both his fiction and poetry, filled his work with the weariness and promise of a newly independent nation. Bringing together twelve of his most representative short stories and translated for the first time in English, Traces of Boots on Tongue is a important window into the past. 

The Islands
By Dionne Irving

Dionne Irving’s debut collection is a grand achievement in tracing the threads of colonialism, immigration, and the pressures of assimilation. The Islands explores the lives of Jamaican women who have relocated to various countries throughout the world to build and grow their new lives. These twelve stories sing in their lyricism and complexity—a hallmark of an exciting new voice in literature.

See Also

Now Is Not the Time to Panic
By Kevin Wilson
Ecco Press

Here at the Chicago Review of Books, we’re always excited to see a new Kevin Wilson release. Now is Not the Time to Panic follows Frankie and Zeke, two outsiders and talented artists who inadvertently spark a panic in their small town when they create an unsigned poster with a mysterious phrase on it. Wilson’s latest novel shows us again that he is at the top of his game, infusing this coming-of-age tale with his trademark sharp wit and deep understanding of love and the uncertainty that comes with fading youth. 

Factory Girls
By Michelle Gallen
Algonquin Books

For fans of the recent Netflix hit Derry Girls comes the darkly humorous Factory Girls. In an attempt to earn enough money to escape her small town in Northern Ireland, Maeve Murray takes a summer job at a local shirt factory working alongside Protestants during the heart of the Troubles. Michelle Gallen cranks up the tension both inside and outside the walls of the factory with every chapter, but her novel is continually balanced with a perfect blend of irreverence and heart. 

Offended Sensibilities
By Alisa Ganieva
Translated from the Russian by Carol Apollonio
Deep Vellum Publishing

Offended Sensibilities is an essential novel for our current times. Set in a small Russian town following the passage of a notorious blasphemy law, this neo-noir thriller casts a dire portrait of a legal system in which no one is spared. Alisa Ganieva takes aim at nationalism and political corruption in Russia, creating a political allegory that readers won’t soon forget. 

My Pinup
By Hilton Als
New Directions Publishing Corporation

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Hilton Als has built a reputation for creating genre-bending and dynamic works of cultural criticism, and My Pinup is no different. Blending elements of memoir and essay on Prince, power, desire, race, and more in just 48 pages, Als draws longing from every word like blood from a vein. 


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